About the process:

We'll start by talking about your design ideas. You can email me photos of other helmets you like, examples from my Galleries here, or use colored pencils on the sketch sheet available on this website. If you don't have something specific in mind, I'll give you ideas that I think might fit your helmet style and go well with your driving suit, car, etc. If you don't have something firm in mind, then when your helmet arrives, I will take digital photos of it and overlay a design on it, and email it back to you. There's no extra charge for most digital pre-design work. That way, if you want to tweak it by suggesting "what if we make that area smaller or larger?", or "what if we made that design element red instead of blue?" You'll be able to see a reasonable approximation of how the helmet will look when finished, so you know you'll like the design, though it may change slightly compared to the sketch once I take the 2D sketch and physically start taping and masking on your actual 3D helmet for best fit.


Photo of Tom Lehmkuhl at the Grand Prix of Cleveland June 2007 during lineup on the Starting Grid.
Tom's helmet is featured as #77 in Helmet Gallery #3, but the colors
are much more accurate in this photo taken outdoors in direct sunlight.

Once we settle on a design, the helmet is first taken apart as much as possible, though with most helmets there's not much that will come off besides the visor and maybe some of the vent covers and sometimes rubber molding. The rest is masked as carefully as possible. The outside is sanded lightly to take off the outer glaze. It is then primered, and then the masking starts for the patterning. Of course the colors all have to be done one at a time, remasking everything else. The color coats are automotive style acrylics and/or other specialty paints, and the clearcoat is at least 4 coats (usually 5 to 6) of catalyzed urethane, color wet sanded by hand with 1000 grit and then 2000 grit 3M finishing sandpaper, and finally hand polished for that "you can see your reflection" final surface finish. The end results are very eye catching and "deep" looking... better in person than in the photographs here. Most logos like the prancing horse or helmet brand logos can be painted (which is what I prefer and they're great for bragging rights), but if you have stickers you'd like to use, they can be applied under the clearcoat so that the final result is smoothed and won't have hard edges. Or if you wish to add stickers yourself later, that's no problem with the clearcoat I use. For maintenance, you can apply any wax or polymer sealer, just like you would on your car's paint.

Turn around is generally 3 to 6 weeks inhouse, depending on how many colors are in your design and how much of a backlog I've got, though I may be able to "rush" it for an extra charge (generally +$100 to +$150) if you've got a track event coming up soon. Click here to get an idea of just some of the colors and click here for the special effects paints available for your design.

What about chrome? True chroming is really impractical -- it requires a completely bare helmet shell, which is nearly impossible unless you order one unassembled from the factory. It then has to be sent off for special processing and usually adds $225-$300 to the paintjob price and extends the time required to do your helmet by an extra 4 to 6 weeks... and quality/longevity is not guaranteed, since I don't control it. I personally recommend various silver paint choices instead (fine grain, coarse grain, pearl, sparklescent, etc), but that's up to you. There is also a painted chrome process (MirraChrome) that can be done on any helmet, but it generally adds at least $150 to the cost of a regular paintjob, because it takes multiple steps and is time consuming, and the paint itself is almost $250 per pint!! But it does look good and can have about 90% of the reflectivity of true chrome. It is best done on a brand new gloss black helmet. To see more info and a picture of how it looks on a helmet, click here. And if you really want something unique -- my own special effect creation that you won't find anywhere else -- ask me about giving your helmet the look of polished stainless steel (a la DeLorean)!

I am very particular about my work, and I give your helmet the attention I give my own. The colors are vibrant, the clearcoat is deep and the details exacting. You won't be disappointed! And you won't be "just another helmet to paint" for some big business... you and I can personally talk over the phone and I will personally email you as the helmet progresses.

Don't have a new helmet yet? I don't sell them, but if you buy one over the Internet, you can have it drop-shipped to me by the store to save yourself from having to re-ship it. Keep in mind that some helmets, independent of their ability to protect your head, are more "painter-friendly" than others, which makes for a better paintjob and lower cost. For example, Bell helmets are designed to be very painter-friendly, and Simpson less so. But ANY racing helmet can be painted, and you'll see Bell, Bieffe, Arai, OMP, Simpson, Sparco, G-Force, Pyrotect, Stand21 and other brands in my Galleries... I've painted them all.

For custom helmet painting, new helmets are prefered, but used helmets in good condition are also welcome, as long as they don't have obvious serious damage to their safety integrity, such as cracks. The integrity and safety aspects of your helmet, before and after painting, are YOUR responsibility (see your helmet manufacturer's instructions and warnings in that regard). If your used helmet has small scratches or dings, I will fill, smooth and prime them before painting, generally for a nominal $20 additional charge. Any irregularities already in your helmet's fiberglass or kevlar surface materials may show up through the paint as bumps or waves, even if they weren't very noticeable when your helmet was all white, but these are rare and usually minor when they do occur. If your helmet has HANS fittings installed, there will be a $15 charge to remove and replace them. If your helmet has a microphone system with riveted clips, there will be $20-$25 to remove and replace them (new clips will be used after paint if needed). Forced Air helmets have a $20 charge to remove and replace the nozzle. It doesn't matter whether your helmet is white or black, since in either case the helmet will have to be prepped and primered before painting. I use a clear primer over carbon fiber weave helmets when having the original weave partially showing is an element in the paintjob design. Factory "soft touch" paint can be repainted, but there is a $50 additional charge because it requires extra steps, time and materials that are not necessary on normal gloss or hard satin. Unlike factory-painted helmets, which are painted before assembly (though actually almost all 'factory graphics' aren't painted at all, but are pre-printed plastic shrink-wrapped material which doesn't take well to repaint), most helmets can not be fully disassembled for repainting. On many helmets, only the visor assembly is removable. On others, the vent covers and/or foam and rubber molding may also be removable. If your helmet is new, all the things I usually remove should come off without incident. If your helmet is older and/or if any of those things break, I will replace them AT COST... the most common things that have to be replaced are vent covers or stripped hold down or pivot parts, or foam around visor ports, and your total additional cost for parts IF NEEDED are usually no more than $25. This cost will NOT be in the quote for your paintjob, because I won't know it's needed until I take your helmet apart. I take your helmet apart as much as possible, but you may find very small irregularities around items that had to be masked such as the base molding. However, these will not be visible at normal viewing distance and will not detract from the overall appearance of your helmet in use. Look at the examples on this website and you can be sure that others will indeed see your helmet as a work of art!

If you'd like to see an article I wrote for Prancing Horse magazine that pretty much shows the process, click here. If after reading that article you're feeling adventurous and would like to paint your own, feel free to contact me if you have questions along the way... I'd be glad to advise you.

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